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Liquor stores to go private

In a July 24 televised cabinet meeting the provincial government confirmed its plans to privatize liquor outlets, focusing instead on public safety and revenue collection.

"The government brings no special talents or purpose to retailing, warehousing or distributing alcohol," said Rick Thorpe, Minister of Competition, Science and Enterprise. "Increasing private sector involvement will result in improved services, consumer choice and access, and better use of Liquor Distribution Branch resources."

The government agreed to moving forward with privatization, proceeding with a gradual and orderly approach to private sector investment and involvement. They will shift the Liquor Distribution Branch’s focus from managing retail, warehousing and distribution operations to regulating them. Communities will be consulted before the government stores are closed.

The B.C. Government and Service Employee’s Union, which represents the employees at 224 government owned and operated liquor stores, as well as two warehouses, called the move "a big mistake."

"Government liquor stores last year contributed $640 million in net income to the provincial treasury and is forecast to bring in around $650 million a year for the next two years," said BCGEU president George Heyman. "The decision to privatize more and more of the liquor business in the province will put in jeopardy these revenues."

The BCGEU said the decision will cost health care and education in the province, as well as open up the potential for more alcohol abuse by removing itself from control of sales.

They also felt that they should have been consulted before the government made its decision.

"The government called this morning to tell us that an announcement was coming. Surely the employees deserve better notice than this," said Heyman.

While privatization may have benefits for consumers, lower prices won’t be one of them – in the televised cabinet meeting Thorpe said the government will not reduce taxes on alcohol.

The B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Industry applauded the move to privatize.

"The private sector can deliver these services much more efficiently and cost effectively and with better serve to everyone, whether you are a restaurateur or a consumer," said BCRFA chair Geoffrey Howes.

Mouton Cadet goes green

The Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation Environmental Fund has received a $2,000 cheque from Select Wine Merchants, the sponsor of the annual Mouton Cadet Spring Festival.

In its 20 th year, more than 100 restaurants and hotels from Vancouver and Whistler entered teams in the April event.

"Select Wine Merchants has been incredibly generous to Whistler-Blackcomb," said foundation president Dave Brownlie. "We are pleased to have maintained a strong relationship with the company for so many years."

The Environmental Fund is supported primarily by staff donations, which are matched by the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation. The money is then spent on environmental projects in the valley, providing funding and people power to help see those projects through.

Projects for the Environmental Fund in 2002 include:

• $3,000 to black bear researcher Michael Allen for his bear skeleton project;

• $2,500 to WORCA for on the "Train Wreck/Runaway Train" bike trail;

• $4,500 to AWARE’s wetlands group for wetland painting;

• And $1,616 to the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group to complete their project at Jordan Creek.

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